By Prarthana Mitra
Human rights organisation Amnesty International claimed on Friday that the government was trying to instil fear among civil society organisations that question power, in response to the raid of their Bengaluru office the previous day. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday raided the premises of their Karnataka headquarters, two years after the organization came under scrutiny and investigation for allegedly violating the rules of foreign funding.
Here’s what happened
The Enforcement Directorate conducted a raid on October 24 into Amnesty international’s Bengaluru office. This comes just two weeks after a similar raid into Greenpeace, another global environmental NGO, and other establishments associated with Amnesty, resulted in frozen accounts.
The ED accused the environmental organization of illegally receiving foreign funding, charges that Greenpeace vehemently denied. Amnesty International has similarly been targeted in connection with a foreign exchange contravention case. On Thursday, over five ED officials raided its office, ordered employees not to leave, shut their laptop computers and searched their desks. “Employees were not allowed to use their phones to call friends and families,” Amnesty informed the world through a series of tweets.
Here’s what ED said and did
In a statement, the Enforcement Directorate said Amnesty International India Foundation Trust resorted to bypassing the FCRA Act after they were denied the permission to receive foreign funds by the home ministry. Shortly after, they allegedly set up a floating commercial entity in the name of Amnesty International India Pvt. Ltd, which received Rs. 36 crore in foreign funds.
In August 2016, the home ministry ordered a “preliminary exercise” to verify whether the human rights watchdog had the necessary approvals. Investigators started looking for suspicious activity between Amnesty International-UK and Amnesty’s India branch to see if they have siphoned funds into the latter’s account in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act or FEMA rules, The Hindu reported.
Clampdown on human rights watchdog
However, Amnesty claims that the order for the probe came within days of hosting a discussion about Kashmir that witnessed anti-India slogans during the session. Following a complaint by ABVP, a sedition case was also filed against Amnesty India.
Over the last two years, several non-profits became targets of a government crackdown based on stringent regulations of donations received from abroad.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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